In 1985, Alan Newton was convicted of serious crimes in two separate prosecutions for which he received lengthy consecutive prison terms. He was exonerated of the second conviction (for rape, robbery and assault) and on July 6, 2006 he was released from prison after having served 22 years in jail (10 years on the first conviction – for attempted rape of a child – and 12 years on the second, wrongful conviction).
After his release, then 45 years old, Newton commenced a federal court lawsuit against the City of New York and certain of its employees for pain and suffering damages from his wrongful incarceration due to the defendants’ failure to produce the rape kit that eventually exonerated him. He was ultimately awarded $12,000,000 for 12 years (the last 12 of his 22 years of incarceration, since the parties agreed that Newton would have served the full 10 years on the first conviction, which was not overturned).
Newton also sued New York State in the Court of Claims for the damages that were not addressed in the federal court case:
- four years of past pain and suffering damages (i.e., 22 years minus 12 years compensated for in the federal case minus six years that the parties agreed should be considered as the time served on the first conviction),
- future (post-release) pain and suffering, including psychological damages,
- past and future lost earnings, and
- future medical expenses
The judge in the Court of Claims action awarded plaintiff pain and suffering damages in the sum of $1,200,000 for the four years of wrongful incarceration not covered by the federal suit plus $250,000 for past lost earnings. He declined to make any awards for future lost earnings or medical expenses.
In Newton v. State of New York (1st Dept. 2018), the Court of Claims judge’s awards were affirmed, $104,000 was awarded for future medical expenses and the case was remanded for a determination on the issue of plaintiff’s post-incarceration pain and suffering. As set forth in the appellate court decision, there was sufficient evidence that Mr. Newton was entitled to post-incarceration and future psychological damages for injuries attributable to his extended incarceration on the wrongful conviction beyond the six-year term he had served on the other unrelated conviction.
Plaintiff’s claim for post-incarceration pain and suffering damages was based upon his testimony that he had been suffering from chronic depression since his release from prison. His psychiatrist testified that Newton met the criteria for dysthymic disorder, otherwise known as persistent depressive disorder, involving significant, chronic depression that it is likely to continue into the future and that it resulted from his lengthy incarceration. The $104,000 award for future medical expenses was based directly upon the psychiatrist’s testimony that plaintiff needs five years of weekly psychotherapy to address his chronic depressive disorder. The State did not present any expert testimony to rebut plaintiff’s future pain and suffering damages claim.
- In the federal court lawsuit, the jury awarded pain and suffering damages in the sum of $18,000,000 but that was determined to be excessive and reduced to $12,000,000.
- After his release from prison, Newton was offered a scholarship at City University of New York and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.